"FJ bo bo!!! Ah you don't remember, I used to look after you when you were this small" a phrase that was repeated to me countless times at the wedding reception I went to in Lagos. You can’t blame me for not remembering the sea of faces greeting me. After all, I haven’t been back to Lagos since 1999. That’s a long time to not have gone back, a long time to not see the home that first sparked my notion of imagination and creativity. The home that formed the foundations of the man that I am today.
Allow me to introduce myself, My name is Folaju Oyegbesan I am a Nigerian born London-based photographer and this is my childhood home. I grew up in this house with my 2 older brothers, my older sister - and of course my parents. Coming back was surreal for me last time I saw this magical land I was a 12 year old boy, and I always saw it as a grand castle. But this time viewing it as a man it seemed much smaller and less grand. This confused me so much that I asked my dad if they had shrunk the house. He simply laughed and said “you just grew bigger.” A flood of memories came back to me as I walked around; a huge reminder of what this house meant to me and what it still means to me.
This home has been many things to me: a place of rest, safety and love but most of all it was a wondrous place where absolutely anything could happen as long as your imagination allowed it. Growing up, this magical land took me to the Olympics every four years where I hoped to be the 100m champion. It also became the World Cup stage, where every time I hoped to score the winning goal or save the deciding penalty. Most of all it took me on hundreds of adventures with my action figures; every aspect of the house was a grand stage for the stories I conjured in my head.
Being the youngest I was always in my own world and I guess I still am. My two brothers are a year apart so they are pretty much inseparable. I hung out with my sister when I could but she usually did her own thing. That left me alone with my numerous action figures and my ever active imagination. I would create crossover stories where Batman and Spider-man would team up to fight the rouge red ranger (my least favourite action figure) who had kidnapped whichever doll I had stolen/borrowed from my sister. Stories with twists, betrayals, love and action. Exploring the house as I had done when I was younger had me feeling so reflective; all my life I’ve always enjoyed telling stories - be it through my action figures or the comics I drew and ultimately through my photography. The imagination and creativity I used to create those stories is the very foundation that has led me to where I am today with my photography.
Going back now as a man and seeing my land of adventure in its current state saddens me. That's what happens when your whole family moves and no one maintains the family home. (Hmm... this is a perfect picture of what is wrong with Nigeria but that's a story for another day). It also fills me with a huge sense of excitement and wonder. As work is being done to restore this land to its former glory, I can't help but reflect on the past and look to the future. Although as a kid I had a vivid and creative imagination, it wasn't something that was actively nurtured. (Through no fault of their own Nigerian households tend to do that, it’s just how they were raised and was seen as the formula for success but not so much these days). It was always seen by the adults as just me playing and wasting time, and it was always second to my studies. It wasn't until I had grown into a man that I started tapping into my creative side. At times I have felt that if I had been using it from when I was young I would be an expert by now. I don’t regret how I was raised and the foundations that were set for me. They will be the same foundations I set my kids with. But I also want to build them a foundation where creativity is also nurtured.